Critical junctures

How pleasing it is to report that the paper I blogged about in this earlier post has now been accepted for publication. Co-written with Nicola Evans this (re)introduces the idea of ‘critical junctures’ and will appear in Social Theory & Health. We draw on two project datasets and show how action at pivotal moments can set individual service user trajectories on directions which are hard to reverse. We also show how, in certain circumstances, small-scale critical junctures can trigger (or be used to lever) larger organisational change.

Next up will be the checking of page proofs, and advance online publication via the journal’s website. What we won’t be able to do for another 18 months is upload a PDF of the post-peer review manuscript to ORCA. This is something Palgrave’s copyright rules are very clear about. In the meantime here’s the abstract which will, of course, be freely available:

Hannigan B. and Evans N. (in press) Critical junctures in health and social care: service user experiences, work and system connections. Social Theory & Health

This article makes an original contribution through the revitalisation, refinement and exemplification of the idea of the ‘critical juncture’. In the health and illness context, a critical juncture is a temporally bounded sequence of events and interactions which alters, significantly and in a lasting way, both the experience of the person most directly affected and the caring work which is done. It is a punctuating moment initiating or embedded within a longer trajectory and is characterised by uncertainty. As contingencies come to the fore, individual actions have a higher-than-usual chance of affecting future, enduring, arrangements. These ideas we illustrate with detailed qualitative data relating to one individual’s journey through an interconnected system of mental health care. We then draw on observations made in a second study, concerned with the improvement of mental health services, to show how micro-level critical junctures can be purposefully used to introduce instability at the meso-level in the pursuit of larger organisational change. In addition to demonstrating why scholars and practitioners should pay closer attention to understanding and responding to critical junctures we are, therefore, also able to demonstrate how their emergence and impact can be examined vertically, as well as horizontally.


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